ATM - Joy Orbison
Since the release of his ‘Hyph Mngo’single on Scuba’s subsidiary imprint Hotflush Two in October of last year,Peter O’Grady’s musical pseudonym has come to global prominence. As Joy Orbison,a suitably dry and tongue-in-cheek pun for someone whose outlook on music isparticularly level-headed, O’Grady achieved a new level of cult status off theback of that first 12”. With ‘Hyph Mngo’, he scored an unexpected runaway hitthat was soon to be micro examined by journalists the world over and play-listedacross the board on radio stations globally. Since then, the South Londonproducer has kept a steady head, working only on select projects such as thefirst single for his own co-run Doldrums imprint, ‘J.Doe’ b/w ‘BRKLN CLLN’ andan EP for Will Saul’s Aus Music imprint, ‘The Shrew Would Have Cushioned TheBlow.’
Now having achieved a level ofsuccess that’s been simply unrivalled in terms of profile and reputation, thefirst time Joy Orbison came to our attention was as a barren and somewhatuninformative Myspace profile in May of last year - around the same time heplayed London’sforward-thinking Thugs N Hugs party. Even from the demo clips and overbearingMyspace compression, it was obvious even then that his take on dance music wasas individual as it was interesting.
“I never expected ‘Hyph Mngo’ to be that big, like really at all; I didn’t likeit enough to ever think that it would have the confidence to do what it did,”he told Atmosphere while perched purposefully on a corroding leather sofalodged on the pavement of an East London alley way ahead of his performance atBenji B’s Deviation club night. “I think I sent it to maybe one or two people.I remember sending it and not getting a response and regretting it almost. Iwas pretty nervous about it; I’m never really that confident about anything Ido, and I don’t mean that in a kinda self-deprecating way, I’m genuinely justnot that confident. I never really know until I’ve played something enough toget an idea and ‘Hyph’ was… it was just a mad thing really.”
“When I wrote it, I liked the ideathat it would be a bit euphoric – I used to listen to a lot of drum & bassand go and watch drum & bass DJs, and it’s not so much a tune’s reallyobvious build up, but it’s when a tune drops; it’s a real kind of rush - and Ithink I was edging towards that.”
With ‘Hyph’’s simplistic two-notechords, pulsing through the echo soaked intro, O’Grady certainly achieved that senseof expectation for the drop, before providing it in spades when the beatfinally kicked in. The track caused a sense of confusion and ripples ofrevolution in the press, given that it wasn’t conventionally dubstep. In fact,it took more reference points from house music and conventional garage. But itwas at the scene’s basement raves and through some of dubstep’s choice DJs – itfirst appeared in Ben UFO’s promotional mix for the inaugural Hessle Audioresidency at Londonclub fabric – that the ‘Hyph’ levy really broke.
“I used to listen to stuff like DMZand that, but it was Oneman who was one of the first DJs that when I heardplay, made more sense to me,” he enthuses. “Oneman was definitely an influenceon me and that’s why when I was making my tunes I was looking at people likehim and Ben UFO, massively Ben UFO, because I knew that these were the peoplewho would maybe be interested in what I was doing.”
“I kind of waited [to give it out];I was always listening to the music, I was always buying the records, but Iwaited until I thought that my music might be a bit more doable, and peoplemight be a bit more into it,” he concedes. “I suppose house [music] isdefinitely a big part of it; I’ve always considered my stuff to be house music,just because, to me, it’s always seemed like it. I mean ‘Hyph’ is quite fastand being that its 140bpm it’s not really house music, but it’s not like when Iwrite something I think ‘Oh, I like funky music so I’m going to write a funkytune.’ I don’t do that. I just write what works at the time; I really don’tapproach things from a genre or anything like that.”
By leaving his music so open toinfluence, O’Grady has defined something of an aural aesthetic. Since hisarrival, legions of work-shy music reviewers have been deploying a lazycomparison, branding any dance music that is somewhat emotive and house-influencedas ‘Joy Orbison-y. This is something he simply laughs off with bemusement.
“I wouldn’t say I’m working againstit, but it doesn’t really seem like that’s my ‘sound’ anymore. I feel like I’vemoved on a bit,” he explains once prompted on the inevitable comparison. “Ireally hate music that is so influenced by what’s going on at the moment. Ihate that derivative… No, not hate; I mean hate is the wrong word because thereis some good stuff going on. I always make it out like I’m so fuckingmelodramatic [laughs]. But yeah, I like music that sits by itself.”
In keeping himself guarded after theexplosion in popularity of his first single, Joy Orbison has enabled his musicto do just that - stand alone. His follow up, ‘BRKLN CLLN,’ taken from thefirst release on his own Doldrums imprint, was a decidedly heftier work,peppered with heavier kick drums and a completely different drive, and whenchoosing to sign his third release to Aus Music, a predominantly house-ledlabel, he again managed to confound expectations; simultaneously openinghimself to new avenues, maintaining that high level of core interest withoutgoing for the everyman and his blog technique of (over) promotion.
“I have a few DJs that I give bitsto, I do a lot of stuff that’s untitled and I give out little things just tosee how they go. I’ve got a bootleg out there that I’ve done. I kinda likeholding back because I quite like to try and do something considered; I’m notgoing to try and write an album, I don’t think… I might do an EP or something,but it’s like with everything I do, it seems very considered - and certainelements are very considered - but it is kind of rushed at the last minute aswell [laughs].”
“It's just control,” he concludesafter a more detailed quizzing on this apparent level of pseudo-intentionalsecrecy. “I realised that a lot of people were asking us [at Doldrums] to dothings but they didn’t really understand what we were about. And that’s why Ithought, let’s not do this stuff, let’s hold back and work on doing thingswhere people would understand my angle. I’d like to think that the people thatlisten to my music and like my music at least understood where I was comingfrom and not just knew me for this one track, because I think it can be reallymisrepresentative of what I do.”
Cementing his appeal with a headlineslot at this year’s Sonar Festival in Barcelonaon the Mary Anne Hobbs curated stage - which also featured UK funky’s consistent benchmarkproducer Roska and LA’s king of slump, Flying Lotus – this summer could wellprove to mark another turning point for Joy Orbison. Recounting the Sonarexperience in his beguilingly warming, yet frank and deadpan manner, and overlookingthe magnitude of the occasion with astounding ease, he explains more of hisplans in detail, marking out the future of his music, the label and itsaccompanying eponymous club night.
“I’ve got a release coming out onDoldrums, that’s getting mastered in a week or two so we’re gonna sneak thatout quite soon. And then…” he says lifting his expression into a knowing smile;“I’m not saying too much at the moment, we’ve got things planned but it’s justwhether or not they come about. I don’t want to be seen ramping things thataren’t happening. We wanna give Doldrums a massive push. We’re gonna do morenights. We’ve still got to confirm the next one, we’ve had quite a bit ofinterest for it but we wanna keep it in South Londonand keep the line-ups quite particular.”
“I am sitting on quite a lot ofmaterial,” he admits, “but I’m not really sure where I wanna go with it. I’vegot something coming up but I can’t really talk about it ‘cause I’m yet toconfirm it… that’s just the way with me; everything I do has to be hush hush[laughs].”
After talking with him for 40minutes, it’s this clandestine nature that remains one of O’Grady’s biggestcharms; this mystique and his determination to do things on his own termsoutshine the rest of the conversation. He’s full of half smiles when we jokeabout labelling him a one-trick pony, or discussing the cynical outlook ofBritish festival goers, but just when you think you have him pegged assomething of an unwilling subject, he drops as a decisive quote as you’ll everhear…
“I think if anything, [‘Hyph’] was amassive one to show the ignorance of the rest of the dance music community.They were like ‘it’s great to see people who are obviously influenced byhouse,’ and I was like, ‘I’m not the first; it’s been going on for a while[laughs].’ There were so many idiotic writers saying it’s great to finally hearsomeone putting this in here and doing that with it, and it’s like ‘No, you’remissing the point’. I was never trying to prove a point or go against anything.If anything that’s how I’d want to be remembered: that the amount of ridiculousstuff that got written about me was just bullshit [laughs].”
Words: Oli Marlow